On Monday, the French founder of Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy edged out the Amazon boss by $300 million, starting a week of centibillionaire square-off.
When it comes to the topic of the world’s richest man, two names mostly dominate the conversation—Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Tesla’s Elon Musk—up until this week that is. Last Monday, it was Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy’s (LVMH) Bernard Arnault and his family that got the top spot as his fashion empire soared despite the effects of the current global health crisis.
As LVMH stock improved by .93 percent on May 24, Arnault’s fortunes grew to $186.3 billion as opposed to Bezos’ $186 billion and Musk’s 147.3 billion. The 72-year-old French mogul “only” had $76 billion in March 2020, which means he gained by more than $110 billion in the span of 14 months.
This is particularly remarkable since, hello, the COVID pandemic continues to be terrible reality for the world. But luxury brands, such as Hermès who posted growth in the first quarter of the year, have been on a comeback trail as of late.
Arnault’s vast portfolio—which, aside from Louis Vuitton, includes Christian Dior, Givenchy, Guerlain, Emilio Pucci, Celine, Bulgari, Sephora, and, most recently Tiffany & Co.—have similarly done well. LVMH had $17.2 billion worth of sales for Q1 2021, which is about a 39 percent increase from this same period last year.
Born in Roubaix, France in 1949, Arnault started his career in the construction industry, working at his father Jean Léon’s Ferret-Savinel. He eventually acquired the luxury goods company Financière Agache then took control of Boussac Saint-Frères, which owned Christian Dior.
By 1987, Arnault formed LVMH by merging the French fashion house and the champagne label. As of February 2021, the conglomerate is worth $319.4 billion, making it the most valuable company in Europe.
Aside from the torrent of “revenge buying” that have been coming out of big Asian markets like China, what helped push Arnault pass Bezos was his efforts to regain shares. As the multinational’s stock price rose, he spent about $538 million to buy back LVMH shares, 47.5 percent of which he already owned.
After Bezos regained the top spot a few hours later, Arnault came roaring back on Wednesday. Bezos took it back again later that and held on to it until Thursday when the LVMH edged him out again for a third time. The duo got richer by $7 billion in this week alone.